by Rico Pfirstinger
NOTE: This article has been edited to add Raw Photo Processor (RPP) and Lightroom 4.4RC to the comparison.
Yesterday, Richard Butler of DPREVIEW fame published an article comparing several X-Trans compatible RAW converters. You can download the RAW file of this demo shot yourself by following the link above. Just scroll down to the end of the DPREVIEW article.
This is an X-Pro1 in-camera JPEG of the original demo shot that was used in the article.
You can click on the image for larger views including full-size. Strangely enough, Richard used a DR200% shot (= a RAW that is underexposed by 1 EV) and film simulation mode Astia. Since Astia offers a different color gradation and more shadow contrast than the camera’s standard (default) Provia setting, this version of the demo image is actually not very suitable for comparing external RAW converters with their respective default settings, which will typically try to mimic the camera’s default settings and look. So let’s do a better job, shall we?
This is the same file as before, now developed in-camera with the X-Pro1’s Provia film simulation mode, using the camera’s default JPEG settings:
Again, click on the image to get to larger views on Flickr. As the demo shot was taken in DR200%, the camera’s internal RAW converter automatically adjusted shadow tones and darker midtones to compensate for the RAW’s -1 EV underexposure, while leaving the highlight tones intact (click here for a more elaborate discussion of how to extend dynamic range). As you can see, Provia offers less shadow contrast than Astia, so the shot looks a bit flatter and also “less sharp”, because increased contrast will give a (false) impression of increased sharpness. So let’s forget about the Astia JPEG shown in the DPREVIEW article. Let’s instead make this Provia JPEG our reference image and compare it with the results of three external RAW converters: Lightroom 4.3, Capture One 7.0.2 (release version) and Silkypix 5.
Here’s a screenshot showing a 100% crop of this Provia JPEG. Click on it to go to Flickr for a full-size viewing option:
Now that our benchmark image is established, let’s have a look at its Lightroom 4.3 version. Lightroom/ACR recognizes the camera’s DR settings (stored as metadata in the RAW file) and automatically compensates (at least partially) for it in its default import settings. Again, click on the pic for larger views: